Sunday, December 02, 2012

International Visitors Leadership Program

In November 2012, I was lucky to be among the  6 Filipinos who were selected by the US Embassy to travel to the United States of America for a short-term visit as part of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP).

My companions include two Public Affairs Officers (AFP and DND) and three journalists. The 'theme' of our 11-day visit was about Regional Security.

 Since its launching 62 years ago, the IVLP has brought more than 200,000 visitors from all over the world for professional exchanges with their US counterparts.

About 5,000 emerging leaders from different countries are selected to participate in the IVLP annually. As of today, this program has accounted more than 300 current or former Chiefs of State or Heads of Government.

There is no application process for the IVLP. Candidates are nominated and selected by the staff of the US embassy to take part in the series of meetings with subject matter experts (SMEs), professional counterparts (in our case, Public Affairs Officers) and visit both public and private sector organizations related to a pre-selected 'theme'.

Upon our arrival at the Washington-Reagan International Airport on November 11, we were met by our English Language Officer (ELO), Mr. Leo Wollemberg, and our very own defense attaches at the Philippine Embassy, Col Arnel Duco of the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy Captain Aguilar.

Our first destination was Churchill Hotel, our temporary home in Washington D.C.

While we were 'recuperating' from the dizzying effects of jet lag, we were brought to a sightseeing tour around the US capital, known for its breath-taking monuments, stately mansions and museums.

Leo, our ELO, also facilitates our daily travels and engagements.
In the next days, we got the chance to learn more about the US system of government, foreign policy and the issue of West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) through our small group discussions with SMEs from both government agencies (US State Department, US Senate and US Department of Defense), private organizations (RAND corporation, CSIS) as well as media organizations (Washington Post).

 The US State Department
Our photo with Mr Henry Collins of Meridian International Center

Greg Poling of Center for Strategic and International Studies, is one of our SMEs 

Mr Richard Fisher Jr, Senior Fellow, International Assessment and Strategy Center

Mr Carlos Conde and Ms Jessica Evans of Human Rights Watch

 Mr. Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe
Dr Angel Rabasa, Senior Political Scientist of RAND Corporation

Our souvenir photo after visiting the Washington Post

Though it was my fourth time to visit the USA, it opened doors of opportunities and learning for me. I only knew Washington DC through the movies and I was very excited visiting historical places like the Washington Monument, the White House and the US Capitol.

The White House
The US Capitol

 Abraham Lincoln Memorial

I became one of  few Filipinos who had the chance to come and see the inside of the  Pentagon, a place which is not accessible to ordinary Americans who have no business going there.

In the Pentagon, I met the military spokesman, a nice fellow who shared to us the best approaches that he used to deal with the media and the general public.

The Pentagon press briefing room

On November 17, we flew to Los Angeles for the continuation of our IVLP engagements in the US West Coast.

LAX airport

Since we were billeted at the Omni Hotel that is located in Downtown Los Angeles, we had the chance to explore the city during our spare time. It  was another chance to see the skycrapers and visit famous tourist destinations.

As an integral part of the program, we were divided into groups in order to meet our respective dinner hosts either at their homes or favorite restaurants.

My host is a young investment analyst, Ms Dianelle Lacy. A bubbly lady, she warmly received us and drove us to her favorite hangout, the Rock N' Fish Restaurant which is located near the Sta Monica beach.

Rock N' Fish Restaurant

 Ms Dianelle Lacy

 With Ms Barbara Gaerlan, Ph.D. at the University of California and Los Angeles

Our photo with Mr Daniel Lynch, Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California 

I presented a simple token to Lt Col Traub, Public Affairs Officer, March Air Reserve Base

Behind us is the Boeing C17 Globemaster of the US Air Force

We met another host, Ms Jodi Cahill of La Sierra University, Riverside, California

We watched the acrobatic show of Cirque du Soleil at Dolby Theather, Hollywood


The IVLP has allowed me to grasp more understanding about the rich history, diverse culture, and the mixed race of a great nation called the US of A.

Through our discussions with SMEs on issues about our theme "Regional Security", I also learned more about the US foreign policy in the West Philippine Sea as shown by its increased presence in this part of the world. (I could not write the details of our discussions because it will violate the agreement we had with our counterparts)

Our guided tour to interesting places especially in the US capital widened the horizon of my understanding about its people. Hopping from one landmark to another in Washington DC was like visiting a set up for a movie scene. I was fascinated by the story behind the 'secret architectural artworks' like the Washington Monument, US Capitol and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial.

When we visited the World War II and Vietnam War memorial, I realized how the Americans appreciated the sacrifices of their soldiers. (How I wished that all Filipinos do the same for their very own soldiers).

The IVLP is a unique opportunity given for emerging leaders. Whatever I have learned from this trip will be shared to my fellow soldiers.

The Vietnam War Memorial

1 comment:

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